Sterling water-connection fees likely to rise
By John Hales
Sept. 28, 2017
STERLING—Sterling Town will likely see an increase in its water connection fee as a result of fixing an old resolution dealing with impact and connection fees.
Currently, the town charges $1,600 for impact fees when a new structure is built and $1,040 for a water connection. But the charges conflict with a resolution on the books that sets the water-connection fee at $1,280. The resolution includes sewer among the utilities for which impact fees are collected. Yet the town has no sewer system.
“We can’t charge an impact fee for something we don’t’ have,” Councilman Curtis Ludvigson said in an interview a few days after a meeting of the Sterling Town Council where the fee issues were discussed.
Holding up a copy of the old resolution at the council meeting Friday, Sept. 15, Ludvigson said, “I would suggest redoing this and adopting a new resolution that would override this.”
Adding to the confusion is the fact that it’s unclear when the last analysis was done on how much the water connection fee should be. That’s because it’s unclear when the resolution was adopted. Although the document contains signatures of people who assumedly were on the council at the time, “there’s no date on the resolution itself,” Ludvigson said.
He and Councilwoman Yvonne Larson both thought the resolution was “definitely an odd-looking one” that would fail a test of being technically proper.
The resolution would have been passed no earlier than 1995, since that’s when the Utah Legislature passed a statute creating and regulating the use of impact fees in an effort, in part, to bring connection fees into line. Prior to the statute, municipalities could charge whatever they wanted for connection fees.
Fixing the contradictions in the resolution, as well as making sure the connection fee corresponds to current costs of hooking up a home to the water system, is driving Ludvigson’s push for a new resolution.
“We don’t want to leave anything out there that could be questioned,” Ludvigson said in the interview last week.
At the meeting, he said, “I’m sure that when we adopted the $1,040 figure, I’m sure we probably collected information on what the costs were … and maybe we ought to do that again.”
Ludvigson said he is studying those costs to be able to present a figure at the council’s next meeting.
The consensus of the council, reinforced by Ludvigson last week, was that the connection fee would probably go up. But impact fees would remain the same.
Cities and towns cannot change impact fees without doing a thorough analysis, often at a cost of a thousand dollars or more, Ludvigson said. He said there isn’t enough growth in the town—and therefore not enough impact fees collected—to justify the expense of an impact-fee analysis.
In other business at the Sept. 15 meeting, the town adopted a fairly comprehensive amendment to its land-use and subdivision ordinance.
A public hearing prior to the meeting saw some discussion on the amendment. However, the interchange was mostly clarification and explanation of the changes why they are needed, rather than opposition. But there was a hint of resistance against stringent, hard-and-fast rules.
Sterling Planning Commission Chair Jane Voorhees said, “Keep in mind: If it isn’t written, it doesn’t exist.”
Voorhees noted that Sterling had become something of a “vacation town,” which could make it ripe for picking by opportunistic out-of-town landlords.
“If we have a regulation, it doesn’t need to say it cannot be worked with,” Voorhees said. “But if you don’t have it, there’s nothing to stop anybody from doing anything.”
Councilmember Scott Johnson echoed that point, saying, “That could turn into an undesirable situation for the town.”